Does Coffee Go Bad? Can Old Coffee Make You Sick

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on July 30th, 2022

I try to stock up when I spot a great deal on my favorite whole coffee beans. That way, I know I’ll be OK for a long time. But, despite my best efforts, I can’t always finish it by the “best by” date. That made me question whether drinking aged coffee beans was even safe. As you can think, I conducted research and came up with an unexpected response.

Does Coffee Go Bad?

Coffee does not always go bad, and a “poor” cup will not make you sick. There is no exact expiry date to remember, as there is with most dry, packed meals and items. This is because coffee does not spoil in the same way that certain foods do.

four coffee cups on floor

Unless you get the grounds wet or leave a pot of coffee sitting around for too long, it won’t sprout like old potatoes or mildew like forgotten cheese.

However, consuming coffee during the first two weeks after purchase is advised. Fortunately, most coffee consumers report finishing a pound of coffee in less than that time. After then, the coffee starts to become stale.

Of course, there is a distinction between coffee becoming bad and coffee becoming stale. It all comes down to the roast variation and how the coffee is kept.

How many aged coffee beans make you sick?

While it is true that old coffee beans are not harmful to your health on their own, they may act as a trigger for negative events to occur. Old coffee beans, in particular, maybe a breeding environment for germs.

Some germs are safe for healthy individuals, while others may cause serious illness. Bacteria such as staphylococcus and streptococcus are often found in coffee machines. If you chance to have your coffee beans open when brewing your cup of Joe, you’re inviting contamination.

Mold is also present.

How Long Does Coffee Last in Its Different Forms?

Is there a difference between the shelf life of coffee beans and the expiry date of pre-ground coffee? Is it true that the storage temperature makes a difference? How long does coffee last once it’s been brewed? Let’s dissect it. You can optimize its freshness and overall taste by understanding how long to keep your brew in the kitchen.

Whole Beans

Whole bean coffee has the longest shelf life of any coffee. To ensure maximum freshness, leave the beans whole before brewing. When grinding beans, grind what you’ll need for brewing. Whole bean coffee should be consumed within three to four weeks after purchase.

Ground Coffee

For optimum results, grind the quantity of coffee required each day. If you buy ground beans, use them within two weeks after opening them.

Brewed Coffee

Get your drink on! If you store your cup of Joe at room temperature, it should be drunk the same day, ideally within 12 hours after brewing. Brewed coffee may be kept in the refrigerator for three to four days.

Cold brew

Cold brew concentrate will keep in the fridge for 1-2 weeks before turning stale and dangerous to ingest. That’s one advantage to making coffee cold—it’s when you need it!

Cold brew coffee is not acidic enough to keep in the fridge for more than two weeks. We recommend starting again if you’re at the 14-day point and wondering if it’s worth it.

If you add milk, cream, or sugar to your cold brew before storing it, the shelf life is reduced to 1-2 days.

Instant Coffee

If you must consume instant coffee (maybe because you are in a hurry), utilize it within two weeks after opening.

What Factors Cause Coffee Bean Degradation?

Coffee and I have a special relationship. We even like the same sort of atmosphere, which is dark and chilly. These are only two aspects of preserving the freshness of your coffee beans. Several more aspects might contribute to the freshness and quality of your coffee beans.

The first is oxygen.

This is the number one foe of a coffee bean. When your coffee beans are opened and exposed to air, they begin to decay and turn stale in only a few days. Store them in an airtight container and only open them to acquire the coffee beans you need regularly. A container with a CO2 valve is a wise investment.

Light is the next significant problem for coffee beans.

Put your favorite mix of whole coffee beans in a glass jar on the counter, no matter how gorgeous you think it is. The light will cause the beans to get stale and no longer taste as wonderful.

Moisture is another consideration.

Coffee dislikes being wet until it is ready to brew. It may be harmful if moisture gets into your coffee beans, whether ground or whole. If there is too much of it, it might stale your beans and possibly create mold.

The last component is heat.

Even though coffee is often found in the kitchen, it cannot withstand the heat. Coffee loses taste when it is exposed to high temperatures. If you put it in a cabinet, keep it away from direct sunlight and away from the cooking stove. This should not be an issue in most kitchens, but you may want to double-check your beans if your air conditioner has just failed.

Can mold grow on coffee beans?

Yes, I am aware. I was horrified when I discovered that mold could develop on coffee beans. The mold that may develop on whole coffee beans or ground coffee can create ochratoxin A, a poisonous chemical (OTA).

Ochratoxin is toxic to the kidneys and is suspected of being a carcinogen. To make matters worse, carcinogens are thought to cause or contribute to the formation of many malignancies. OTA might also suppress your immune system.

What is the origin of OTA?

You may believe that mold couldn’t possibly grow in your spotless kitchen, but you’d be incorrect. As you can see, the OTA from the coffee mold does not have to originate from your home. It’s conceivable that it came in on the beans first.

That’s accurate; the poison was always there in the beans. This is because the mold that causes OTA is common in coffee-growing regions. It thrives in the warm, damp atmosphere.

As if this news wasn’t horrible enough, I have another surprise for you. OTA is resistant to both heat and strong acids. You know, the elements that go into coffee bean roasting.

How can I prevent consuming OTA-contaminated coffee beans?

Knowing where your beans come from is the greatest way to eliminate OTA in your coffee. Take note of where they were cultivated, where they were processed, and how they were conveyed.

Insist on obtaining coffee beans from firms who do OTA testing. That’s all there is to it.

What are the possibilities that my coffee contains ochratoxin?

According to one research, more than half of the coffee beans examined were infected with OTA.

However, the issue might be considerably worse. Cross-contamination is a significant problem in coffee growing and processing. Even if a crop was initially OTA-free, it is now polluted if processed on infected machinery.

How can I ensure that my old coffee is safe to drink?

No magic button will ensure that your old coffee beans are safe to consume. There are just too many variables to make such assurances.

However, you can do a few things to ensure that your coffee beans remain safe and flavorful for as long as possible.

Coffee beans should be kept cool.

This is the most effective method for keeping your coffee beans as safe as possible.

Many individuals I know still keep their coffee beans at room temperature. While this is OK for a short amount of time, storing beans at room temperature for a long period can hasten the process of beans turning bad. It may also promote the development of the mold that produces OTA.

So, place your entire beans in the freezer, or at the very least, the refrigerator. Mold cannot develop under such conditions. The cold will also help your coffee last longer by preserving some of its taste as it matures.

Begin with the greatest coffee.

I cannot emphasize this more. Mold and OTA contamination are unlikely if you start with the finest coffee. You also lessen the possibility of bacterial infection and mistreatment.

There’s a reason why cheap coffee is so cheap. The farmers took shortcuts. The processors took shortcuts. Of course, shippers and merchants used shortcuts as well. It’s just not worth jeopardizing your health to save a few dollars.

Maintain a clean coffee preparation area.

Assuming you’ve purchased the finest beans and kept them in the freezer, the rest is up to you. Maintain a tidy coffee preparation area. You’ll have to clean your countertops, cutlery, and coffee makers.

I shouldn’t have to tell you, but please wash your hands! The dirtiest hands handling all those beans are the leading cause of tainted coffee. Even if you use clean tools and equipment, your coffee will be contaminated if your hands are filthy.

How can you know if your coffee has gone bad?

Because you can’t see, smell, or taste OTA or most germs, you’ll have to rely on my recommendations above to limit your chances of being ill. However, infection isn’t the only problem with old coffee.

Both beans and ground coffee may get rancid. The longer beans and coffee grounds lie, the more likely they will spoil. It occurs significantly quicker in warmer surroundings, so store your coffee in the refrigerator or freezer.

When your coffee has gone bad, you can typically tell immediately quickly. When you open the package, the stench will be bitter and rotten, a terrible odor.

If you pay carefully, you can also detect when the coffee has gone bad. Fresh coffee has a strong and enticing aroma. When the coffee starts to stale, it loses its fresh aroma. If it doesn’t smell unpleasant, you may still drink it, but you don’t have much time.

Coffee that has gone rancid—coffee that has gone completely rotten—will have a foul flavor. The taste will undoubtedly raise some red flags if you can get beyond the awful odor. I can taste it immediately away, and no amount of flavor boosters or chemicals can mask it.

Can coffee beans be preserved for an extended period?

Coffee beans may be frozen for up to 6 months, depending on their initial freshness (not recommended). Coffee kept on the counter should be consumed within two weeks.

Do entire coffee beans spoil? Yes, they can go wrong. They might get stale, reducing their perfume and taste. They may also grow rancid, causing them to smell and taste terrible. Rancid coffee beans may also cause gastric discomfort.

How Do You Know If Your Coffee Is Fresh?

Your coffee should be fresh if it has a small coating of foam or crema.

And, no, the crema or foam should spontaneously occur in the coffee and not the consequence of adding milk foam, cream, or other ingredients.

On the other hand, if you’re offered coffee that looks like a basic black liquid, it’s probably stale.

And if you want to know whether your beans are still OK, do the ‘coffee bean freshness test’:

  • Take a half-cup of coffee beans and mix them.
  • Place them in a zippered bag.
  • Expel all of the air.
  • Close the bag.
  • Allow it to sit overnight.

If the beans you’re evaluating are within 7-10 days after roasting, the bag will puff up due to the carbon dioxide they’re emitting.

If, on the other hand, the bag stays flat, the beans do not create gas and are certainly not fresh.

However, this is not the only method for determining the freshness of your coffee beans.

Another good method to tell whether you’re working with fresh beans is to look at how oily they are.

When you pluck them, if they are greasy and leave a residue, it signifies they are fresh.

But remember that light roast beans aren’t as oily as darker roast beans, so there’s less residue – this doesn’t always imply they’re terrible!

Lighter roasts are less oily, so don’t anticipate as much residue as a darker roast.

Remember that outstanding coffee has a perfect balance of bitterness, acidity, and sweetness, all wrapped in a smooth taste.

A good cup of coffee should never taste like burnt charcoal.

You may either return it or locate a higher-quality coffee if it does.

Coffee Stale vs. Coffee Rancid

Coffee was at its freshest when ground and brewed within two weeks after the roasting date. The taste will continue to fade after that. Trust your nose if you discover old beans in the pantry.

The roasting process produces the fragrance of coffee. A used bag of coffee beans that still smells like coffee will most likely taste like coffee. If you discover beans that smell musty or mildewed, they have gone rancid and should not be eaten.

When the oils in the bean begin to degrade, rancidity ensues. Rancid oil is poisonous and, in certain situations, a carcinogen (a cancer-causing substance). Rancid food causes indigestion and inflammation and may lead to heart disease.

When in doubt, throw out old coffee (beans or grounds).

Should You Keep Coffee Refrigerated?

Your fridge has much more moisture and a wider temperature range than your freezer. It is not advised to keep your coffee in the refrigerator.

The refrigerator in a home is often opened and closed with changing quantities of food, which may cause the inside temperature to fluctuate. When you keep coffee in the fridge, this variation might cause moisture, leading to mold.

Is it a Good Idea to Freeze Coffee Beans?

Because we know that the primary enemies of coffee are air, light, moisture, and heat, freezing it for long-term preservation seems like a good idea. But are there any drawbacks to freezing beans or ground coffee?

Yes. Because the reviews on freezing coffee are mixed at best, freezing your beans is not advised.

Because coffee is porous and spongy, it readily absorbs various scents. This means that the coffee might absorb any leftover odors in your freezer. So, if you have frozen leftovers in your freezer, the thawed coffee may have an unpleasant flavor.

Consider storing a loaf of freshly made bakery bread in the freezer. Doesn’t it seem like a pity? Fresh bread that has been frozen and thawed will never smell or taste the same once it has been frozen and thawed. Sure, it’ll be safe to eat, but fresh is incomparably better.

The same may be said about coffee. You could put it in the freezer, but it will never smell or taste the same. We understand that freshness is essential for high-quality coffee, so don’t freeze it.

What if you stumbled upon some bulk coffee beans that you’d never used before they went stale? If you must freeze beans, store them in unopened vacuum-sealed packaging or a tightly sealed container. Thaw them to room temperature when you’re ready to use them.

Is it best to keep coffee beans in the refrigerator? The chilly, dark environment inside the fridge might seem to be ideal for grinds and beans, but it isn’t. Refrigerated coffee grounds and beans mature quicker, reducing freshness and flavor. Coffee grinds and beans condense in the fridge, causing the delicious oils of the coffee to rise to the top.

Is it possible to destroy germs by microwaving coffee?

While microwaves may kill germs in pockets, since they heat from the outside, they often leave pockets of cold amid food and beverages where bacteria can grow. As a result, they should not be depended on to destroy whatever is alive in that cup.


Editorial Staff

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